Thursday, March 31, 2011

Start 'em young!

Ahhh, okay. Kids are at the neighbors. I walked her dog; she took my kids. Who says I don't know how to barter??

So here's what's on my mind today. (Yippee, right? It's exciting, I know, but don't all applaud at once. It's simply deafening.)

Jack wanted to stay home yesterday. After one halfhearted, "My tummy hurts," he just gave up and said "Yeah, I'm fine, I just want to sit in my pajamas and watch TV." So I let him. It's kindergarten, and I think we all had a little bit of a birthday hangover.

Anyway, to my point. We watched a lot of TV. For the record, I am not a television person. I have never watched American Idol. The Biggest Loser doesn’t encourage me to go on a diet. I think the stories I hear about Hoarders are hilarious but I don't even know what channel it's on. Hate the Wii, hate the DS. Don’t care a bit about Mario and the Yoshi and getting in your bubble. In fact, I am constantly screaming at my children, "Screen time is OVER!! Turn off everything with a screen! Your brains are rotting!"

(This gets a little "do as I say, not as I do" because I am constantly on the computer, which, of course, has a screen. Usually I'm pretty big on being a good role model but in this case I just ignore them.)

ANYWAY (can you believe I actually haven't gotten to my point yet?), yesterday, when I watched a lot of cartoons with Jack, I noticed there are tons of commercials directed at these little viewers.

If you are to believe the timing of those commercials, the majority of kindergarteners have hemorrhoids, are in debt, need to remove age spots, and might be looking for a good lawyer after their most recent traffic altercation. They color their hair, make mashed potatoes from a box mix and have at least one ingrown toenail. The calluses on their tiny feet are out of control.

People. Really. Please. Do these advertisers not realize that the mothers are generally nowhere to be found when the kids are watching these shows? That you're not actually reaching the mothers?? My kids watch cartoons when I have something else to do. Duh. And really, is a child's endorsement of a hemorrhoid cream going to encourage any adult to run out and buy it? “Mommy, mommy, it reduces inflammation AND pain! Can we get it? Can we can we can we??”

I get the idea of marketing to kids. I hate it, but I get it. My kids couldn’t write a letter to Santa without three months of steady commercials to inspire their little brains.

So let’s get smart about it. Let’s advertise being polite! And eating vegetables! And doing your homework! And reading! And turning off the TV and throwing away the DS! Yes, what great ideas!

Yeah, okay, that will never happen. And yes, you annoying person in Idaho being critical of me, I can always just turn the television off. But do you really want your kid to be the only one who doesn't know the best way to relieve bunion pain??

I thought not.

Bad mommy moment

Teacher day at the kids' school so they're home. I'm supposed to be treasuring this rare day with them.

But they're bugging the living crap out of me.

Jack is riding his scooter all over the downstairs (thanks to the contractor who gave me lots of "loops" in my floor plan) and saying, "Can you make pancakes? Can you make pancakes?" every time he laps through the kitchen.

Caroline is cheating at the Bop-It game and it's really bugging me. How will she ever know her true high score if the registered high score is fraudulent?? Doesn't she have any ETHICS???

I keep trying to escape from them but they find me. I walk upstairs and four feet pound up the stairs behind me. I go in the office and the scooter and the Bop It game are right next to my desk. Bathroom? They knock on the door. Even though they don't have anything to say.

It's raining, it's cold. I think the guinea pig is a dud because she won't come out of the corner of her cage. The dog needs to be walked. There aren't any movies to go see, I don't know what to cook for dinner and I feel fat. Which makes me want to make brownies.

The neighbor called and asked if her kids could come over here for a while. What, she needs a break? No way, sister. We're all in this together.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Administrative note

I wanted to have a domain name that was easier to remember for this blog. Whit put on his thinking cap and came up with ""

This website name means a lot to us. When Caroline was learning to talk, she very proudly marched up to a puddle one day, pointed at it, and said clearly, and with great excitement, "Duddle!" It was one of her first real words and it's always been part of our family lexicon. It reminds us of those days when we didn't know what we were doing or what was ahead but we were enjoying the ride...exactly what I'm trying to do with this new phase of my life.

So, thank you again for all the support you've given me. This blog is lots of fun and it's scratching that writing itch for me. I hope that each entry either leaves you laughing, relating to me, feeling warned about what's ahead for you or just full of gratitude your life is saner than mine!

Birthday Hangover

So picture this:

I wake up this morning completely exhausted. My mouth is dry. I am broke. My feet hurt. I am vaguely nauseous from eating too much crap. There's a hand on my breast and there's a small furry animal running around that wasn't here yesterday morning.

Have I stepped into a time machine and traveled back to college?? Did I dance the night away with hot fraternity boys? Have I done anything I’ll regret?

No. (Dare I say “unfortunately?”)

It was just Caroline’s birthday.

The day started off as birthdays often do in our house, with balloons, singing, gifts and a decadent birthday treat (chocolate croissants). (Okay, unvarnished truth be told, here we can insert one tiny birthday diva tantrum because I hadn't done the laundry and her beloved black pants weren't ready.)

Then we move to dozens of doughnuts delivered to school with the specified lunch (a diva lunch: it came from a gourmet shop and cost $20). After school, we met Whit at the pet store, because for THREE YEARS Caroline has said she wants a guinea pig for her ninth birthday. I prayed she'd forget about it but the kid has a memory that is either indicative of higher intelligence or some undiagnosed syndrome.

It took three stores to find the pet she wanted. She chose a little runt (very cute except for weird red eyes) and named her Lilly. Purple plastic purse not included.

THEN all my brothers and sister and sisters-in-law and nieces and nephews and Marie and Maddie (and, briefly, the neighbors) came over for a huge birthday cookout. I was slinging burgers, filling chip bowls and finding bowls for condiments like I was in some sort of bizarre cook-off competition against...well, myself.

I was cleaning up and doing the post-mortem with Whit until midnight.

The day was nonstop. I can't remember having the time to go to the bathroom.

Serious birthday hangover.

(Oh, the hand on my breast? I don't even have a good raunchy story. I just got barnacled.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Coffee and silence, oh yeah!

Zen morning moment before The Birthday begins.

(So much for my moment; Jack just came downstairs and I yelled at him to go back to bed.)

Anyway, back to Zen.

Caroline came home from school yesterday and said, "Mommy, if I'm crabby, it's not you. I had a bad day."

A thousand potential responses crossed my mind before I sighed and said, "Okay, why was it a bad day?"

"Well, no one really made a big deal out of the fact it's a day before my birthday."

The day BEFORE your birthday? Are you KIDDING me?? Do you even remember what you read when I made you look up the word "diva" this weekend???

Ah, wish me luck.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I wasn't kidding.

A Rite of Passage

Caroline turns nine tomorrow. I have found the kids outgrow those huge, everyone's-invited pizza/arcade parties after kindergarten. (It won't surprise you that I hate those parties. Bad pizza, potential pedophile hangout and a manic look as the kids search for the next game to play or deliberate over which tacky prize to choose. And take home. And treasure, which they do as soon as you suggest throwing it away.)

So for the past few years, Caroline has thought of celebrating on a much smaller scale. She's done New York with Maddie, Hershey Park with her family. Therefore, when she innocently said, "Mommy, can I have a few friends spend the night the weekend before my birthday?", I benevolently overlooked my distaste for sleepovers to say, "Sure, honey."

I learned a couple of things on Saturday night:

1. So much for for her advanced math class. "A few" apparently means 13.

2. 13 is an unlucky number. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

3. Little girls eat like linebackers. We went from chips and salsa to pizza and veggies to make-your-own sundaes to popcorn to Cheese Nips and pretzels to three packages of bacon, two round of pancakes, two dozen eggs, a bowl of fruit and banana nut bread. It took three emergency trips to the grocery store. It was seriously like feeding a small country. And feeding it well.

4. At any given slumber party, one girl will cry, one girl will be bossy, one girl will want to go home, one will never shut up and one will hurt her foot. Each is inevitable.

5. They will only stop talking and go to sleep when you're mean to them. In our case, this resulted in me standing in the middle of the family room with my arms crossed from 1:00 am to 1:30 am. And calling them preschoolers. Meanly. With a mean look. (Which was, unfortunately, wasted, because it was dark.)

6. Caroline's prizes for "last to go to sleep" and "first to wake up" were just plain dumb. Those two winners high-fived each other as they overlapped.

7. If you let them paint on pillowcases, it is guaranteed the dog will find them when they're wet, walk on them, and then walk all through your house. All over. Back and forth. Like he's on a mission. Like he hates you.

8. Sometimes they're really funny. For example, one girl wasn't allowed to watch SpongeBob, so they watched it in Spanish so she couldn't learn anything bad. (They still knew when there was a fart joke. That crosses any language barrier.)

9. "Your mom is here!" are the most beautiful four words in the English language. I think I actually skipped into the family room each time. One funny mom suggested I position Jack one block down with a walkie-talkie so I could have the girl packed and in the driveway when her car arrived.

10. They wear sleeplessness like a badge of honor. "One hour!" "Two hours!" "I didn't sleep at all!" When I say that, I'm usually ready to cry. They wanted medals.

(Now I know where she gets it. Obviously, to me, "a couple" of things I learned means ten.)

So, maybe the (apparently extremely displeased) sleepover god did smite me. And maybe I had to deal with a child who spoke in tongues for the rest of the weekend. But remember how I am a self-professed sucker? Caroline had Whit take her on a secret afternoon trip on Sunday. She handed me these (exquisitely and perfectly Caroline-ish) flowers with a "thank you" and a hug, and while I can't say I'd do it all over again, I can say it was almost worth it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I bet she's cracking them up in Heaven.

Today is a sad day. Five years ago today, my mom died of cancer. She had just turned 63. If your mother is alive, even if she drives you bananas, you're lucky. I miss mine every single day of my life.

A month before she died, I did what I always do when I am trying to process something: I wrote. So I'm going to show you what I wrote, not because it is a literary work of genius, but because it shows you who she was. And if you chuckle, even once, then that's a very fitting tribute to her.

Laughter is the Best Medicine (February, 2006)

My mom is dying.

I’m not just being dramatic; she has fully metastasized, stage five-zillion cancer. She sprouts malignant tumors like a Chia Pet. And it’s breaking my heart, because I (an almost-36-year-old woman with a husband, dog and two kids) still love her with the fervor usually reserved for star-crossed toddlers.

My siblings, all four of them, and I are wild about my mom, and we’re each dealing with this situation differently. One of us won’t talk about it, one of us cries a lot, one of us pops Ativan daily, and one of us (a little strangely) bought a puppy. Me? I laugh.

It’s shocking and almost seems callous…until you meet my mom.

To look at her, you see the typical suburban socialite: Chanel suits and weekly pedicures, a wobbly golf game and a fondness for vodka tonics (the two most definitely not related), several philanthropic chairmanships, a deep love for her family and an unshakeable faith in God and the Catholic Church. No matter what.

Delve a little deeper and you might be surprised to find an outrageously sharp wit. For example, my sister once told my disapproving mother that she wanted to live with her fiancĂ© because he could help pay the bills. “That,” my mother retorted, “is called prostitution!”

When I got married, my mother looked over the list I was giving to the calligrapher. She was annoyed that my father-in-law’s invitation would be addressed to “Larry.” “Who,” she asked incredulously, “names their kid Larry?”

“My grandmother,” patiently replied my sweet, southern husband.

“That’s ridiculous. We’re pretending his real name is Lawrence.” And so, I swear to you, the invitation went to Lawrence. My father-in-law still can’t figure it out.

As annoyed as I have often been by her antics, I’ve always appreciated the humor in them. My mom and I share a wicked sense of irreverence, and we’ve always been slightly scandalous in our jokes. And nothing has ever been greater fodder for our demented funny bones than my mom’s cancer. Among our jokes? Well, we have a running list of who she’ll have to haunt. We agree that she’d make a sprightly little ghost, popping up here and there to wreak some havoc: just willing little things on people, like lost car keys, that annoying “did I leave the stove on” preoccupation many of us have, almost fitting into size four pants, and maybe even a bounced check or two for some certain folks.

She’s decided to look on the bright side of her alarming weight loss by getting glamour shots taken for the funeral mass programs. I’ve requested that, post-celestial ascent, she blink the lights when my kids do something wrong. Her response: “Fine, but first I’m teaching your kids every trick you guys pulled on me when you were in high school. They, too, will bypass your alarm system (she knows we did it with chewing gum wrappers), and they’ll know how to silently roll your car down the driveway at 3:00 am.”

We were at my little brother’s wedding when she told me the cancer had spread and her goose was cooked. The groom walked up to us and my mom looked at him and said, “Take a hike. We’re talking about sex.”

My friends are shocked by our daily conversations. They probably are a little inappropriate. My mother told me she doesn’t want a timeline from her doctors. She said she’s too prompt, and she’d feel compelled to die on a Tuesday if that’s what they told her they expected. I suggested she just get the 30-day countdown from the oncologist and shop like crazy, then die before my dad gets the credit card bill.

And thankfully, her personality hasn’t changed a bit. “For the love of God,” she told me a few weeks ago, “bury me in sweatpants. Don’t you dare ruin one of my St. John suits. And be damn sure you get all my jewelry off!”

Everyone has urged me to grieve; to cry and mourn my mom. I was perplexed as to why I wasn’t, but I think I’ve figured it out. My mom and I have laughed through the past (again, almost) 36 years, and I am not about to spend the time we have left crying over what is to come. Without knowing it, my mother is already helping me grieve, because she’s cementing her legacy. She’s making it okay for both of us when she dies. For the rest of my life, I will hear her deep, infectious, hearty laugh ringing in my ears. I will remember her as a class act that wouldn’t let anything, even terminal cancer, take the joy out of her heart. And I will always be grateful to her for sharing that joy with me.

It will be hard not having my mother around. No one else will ever think I’m as funny, and no one else will ever think things like nuns, mental illness and bad marriages are quite so side-splitting. But, until then, I’ll laugh with her until the very end. And, for the rest of my life, when the lights blink, I’m hiding the car keys.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Coach Dad

Whit has agreed to coach Caroline's soccer team this spring. It's a recreational league -- a few of the girls have moved to the big-time teams, but for the most part, this team has stayed together since kindergarten.

I predict a flaming, detonating disaster of gigantic proportions.

Whit played soccer in college. Well; he received a scholarship to play. Whit coached college soccer. Well. Whit likes to win. Whit is an athlete.

Caroline has played soccer for a few years. Sometimes well, sometimes not. She doesn’t particularly care if they win. Caroline is a little girl.

Anyway, the first practice is tonight. Whit has his speech ready. It's a speech that would truly inspire college athletes. It's a speech that will result in 12 little girls looking at him with blank stares. Or like he's nuts.

Whit has asked me to go buy him a magnetic clipboard so he can explain plays. He doesn't know the little girls will want to take the magnets home to put on their refrigerators.

He has a warm-up drill ready. He doesn't know they warm up by playing on the jungle gym adjacent to the field.

He has a playbook that involves passes, fakes and goals. He doesn't know their playbook involves cartwheels down the field, holding hands and braiding each other’s hair.

He has made up a victory cheer they can use when they score. He doesn't know they just hug each other when they score.

He wants to talk about fire, grit and pride. They want to talk about Taylor Swift, sleepovers and earrings.

Whit is a great dad. He’s a great coach. But he’s not a third-grade girl.

He thinks this season will be a defining moment for him as a father.

I don’t have the heart to tell him he’s basically going to be chaperoning a playdate.

Yeah, it's gonna get ugly.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Our family, by Jack

Here’s what’s wrong with caring what people think.

Jack and Caroline’s school had an art fair. The kindergarteners were tasked with family portraits (after they were obviously taught “theory of a nose,” given all the weird noses bestowed upon us).

All the family portraits had the composition you’d expect: two parents, a couple of kids.

Jack’s looked like this:


I said, "Well. Sweetie pie, I see you, and I see Caroline with the pretty flower on her shirt. And you know pink is my favorite color, so you gave me a pink shirt. And I guess one of these guys is Daddy. But who's the other one?"

Jack gave me an exasperated sigh. "Mommy. That's Grumpy."

Okay, well, Grumpy is what all the kids (aptly) call my dad. But that guy – neither guy – looked like my dad. In a few words, my father is bald and old. Those guys both looked like dads, but dads with hair, and young.

So it looked like Jack had two dads. And me, maybe the angry housekeeper.

That's hilarious.

It made me laugh when I saw it. It made me laugh when I thought about it later. It made me laugh when I saw the pictures I took of it.

So this morning I composed a long post about just how tickled I was by that family portrait. I showed the post to my husband.

“That’s not funny.”


“Well, I don’t exactly have your sense of humor, so maybe it’s funny to you, but it’s not funny to me.”


“No. I don’t. I think your post could be offensive.”

Then that became funny. But I realized I was tiptoeing in HIGHLY OFFENSIVE TERRITORY. Laughing at my husband was likely not a good idea.

Big, big sigh. Deflation. No enthusiasm about blogging today.

Okay. I admit defeat. I won’t write about it, lest I offend someone. (Who? The art teacher? A fellow kindergartener?)

So this post was about how peer pressure can dampen a creative spirit. Got it? Peer pressure. That's not offensive to anyone.

(But, if you have a normal sense of humor and happen to crack a smile about the picture, it's okay. Just don't tell anyone.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Midnight visitors

(Get your mind out of the gutter! It's about my kids.)

Caroline is turning nine. Jack is almost six and a half. Why, why, why can I still not sleep through the night? I am still tired all the time. Wasn't that supposed to disappear when I stopped paying preschool tuition? Apparently not in my house.

While there are many, here are the top five recurring reasons I am awoken every night:

1. "Sleeping is boring." This is usually followed by Jack shining a flashlight on our eyes to see if we're "really asleep."

2. Caroline goes nose-to-nose with me and, in stinky sleeping breath, asphyxiates me when she says (in an annoyingly breathy and urgent voice), "I lost an earring in my bed. Can you find it? Now??"

3. Either child: "I'm cold." "I'm hot." "I'm itchy." "I'm lonely." "I can't find my blanket/pillow/stuffed animal/DS." (That last one is a joke, because I feel like that DS is omnipresent. I despise it. I would gladly flush it down the toilet if it wouldn't result in thousands of dollars being spent on the ensuing plumbing problems.)

4. "Can I please have a sip of the water by your bed?"

(Just drink the damn water; you don't need permission! Don't wake me up to ask that! That ranks high with shaking me awake to announce, "I have to go to the bathroom." DO YOU NEED AN ESCORT???)

5. My barnacle -- Jack -- wants to "cuddle." Aggressively. Completely. In an encompassing, suffocating way. (Whit and I call this "getting barnacled." It happens often.)

If none of those things happen, do I get a good night's sleep?

No, that's when the dog usually farts. And no one can sleep through that.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Independence day

My kids are outside, and I don't know where they are.

(Oh, crap, Whit reads this. Okay, honey, it's not that I don't know where they are totally, it just means they're in one of three places and I don’t know exactly which one at this given moment. So don't freak out. Really. It’s all good over here.)

This is significant because I have raised my children as if at any moment, a masked gunman who is also a pedophile and an arsonist will stroll down our suburban street and snatch them. For nine years, I have fervently believed that dire fate could only be avoided if I was physically holding their hands or had both eyeballs glued on them. Without blinking. (Yes, pathetic, you can say it.)

Playing outside? I sit on the front steps. Riding bikes? I follow with the dog and wear a good sports bra. Out in our own backyard? I open all the windows so I can hear them if they need me.

A little smothering, did you say? Um, yeah.

When Caroline started kindergarten I found out that the kids were almost unsupervised at recess. I lost it. I wanted armed guards patrolling the perimeter, not aides who couldn't possibly give their undivided attention to my child. My very AT RISK child. (Kidnappers like her looks. I’m sure of it.)

Anyway, yes, I am crazy. Looney. I admit it. And now you know why it's such a huge step for me to let my children play outside without GPS collars around their necks.

Maybe I'm growing up. Or letting them grow up. Or just acting somewhat normal for a change. We'll see if it sticks.

Jelly Beans & Cosmos

I exercise. A lot. I drink water. A lot. I take vitamins. Usually.

I am constantly thinking about what I'm eating and whether or not it will show up on my butt. I'm a pretty health-conscious, weight-conscious middle-aged woman (assuming I die at 80...if I am going to live until I'm 90, I don't have to call myself that yet).

Until any holiday candy shows up in the grocery store. And then, I swear to you, I lose all self control. A trip down aisle 14 becomes a mental battle between Jenny Craig and Roseanne Barr.

It's the Easter season, so of course I need to have a bowl of jelly beans in my kitchen at all times. And those cute little Reese's eggs -- three of those can't be too many calories, right? What about the absolutely adorable pastel Hershey's Kisses? Or the Peeps, for God's sake? I don't even like Peeps, but they beg me to eat them, all colorful and lined up in their box like that.

Let's talk about M&Ms. The choices! Milk, dark, peanut butter, pretzel...yes, yes, yes and yes! I'll try them all! It's a holiday, right? Time to celebrate! Throw caution to the wind!

And they have bright, tempting candy for every season. No sooner do I vow to eat ALL the Halloween candy in the house, just to get rid of it so I won't tempt myself anymore, than the damn red and green candy canes pop up! Golden chocolate coins for Hanukkah! Kwanzaa candy? Then Valentine's Day! Then Easter! It's a conspiracy, I think, to keep my gym in business.

Ah, hell, what do I know. I can't fight it. Thankfully, it is really, truly, my only weakness. Sort of. I do like wine.

Except that daylight savings time makes me want a cosmopolitan.

It's hopeless.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Homecoming fit for a king. Really? He was just golfing.

So Whit came home yesterday and you'd think the man had been off fighting a war for two years instead of reliving his college days for a weekend. The kids and I got in the car to go pick him up, and the dog looked so sad that we were leaving that I let him jump in the car, too. When we got to the airport, the kids flew out of the car and tackled him. The dog actually did circles in the front seat, whacking me in the face with his tail every time he spun, and whined pathetically until Whit paid attention to him.

Once we got home, it was all Daddy, all the time. The kids fell over each other showing him everything he had missed -- the confetti left by the leprechauns, the mosaic, the new clothes, the homework that was graded, the bear from the birthday party, etc, etc.

Dinner? They flanked him. Showers? He was the master shampooer. Bedtime stories/back scratching/cuddling? You guessed it, Daddy/Daddy/Daddy.

Then he came downstairs and we sat on the couch for two hours while he updated me on all his friends, their golf games, how much bourbon they can drink, what their kids are doing, how their jobs are going, who snores. He had me in stitches about some chicken farmer from Georgia who somehow integrated himself into this group. Apparently the guy is full of anecdotes about chicken equipment failures and chicken dismembering (I don't want to think about how they're related).

All in all, I think his liver is pickled, he's five pounds heavier, his golf game improved and his stomach is sore from laughing so hard. He had the kind of break everyone needs.

As he was falling asleep, he said to me, "It sure was fun, but nothing beats coming home."

I kept thinking about that today. Isn’t it a really good thing when a home is so much more than a house? I started to wonder what ingredients make up our home, and I realized it’s a lot of laughter, a lot of love, a healthy dose of fighting, an unhealthy dose of worry. We’re made up of food groups and dog hair on the couch and glasses of wine by the fire. We’re definitely made up of messy closets and dust bunnies. Then, of course, you’d throw in almost nine years of babies crying (ours and my six nieces and nephews), loooong, generally yucky discussions about money and jobs and savings, lots of late-night cuddles during thunderstorms and plenty of hugs and kisses. You'd add sports and books and cartoons. You’d throw in construction projects and happy hours. You would drop in gut-wrenching heartache and gut-wrenching joy. You’d have to add dinner parties, clean and dirty jokes and adult (and often highly inappropriate) Secret Santa exchanges. You’d throw in exercise and bedtime stories and prayers. You'd add insecurities, failures and successes. You’d have to stick in family obligations (did I already mention my dad living in the basement?) You’d want to add so, so, so many tears…of happiness, sadness, hurt, worry, joy. If you stirred all that up, or perhaps, in our case, just threw it up into the air, I think that’s pretty much who we are and how our home is made.

It’s not all good, and it’s not all easy. I doubt anyone's is. But it’s what we’ve got, and who we are. And all I know is that leaving our home is sometimes the most liberating feeling in the world, but there's nothing like the comfort of coming back.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

An afternoon adventure...

...with a little girl who coined the term "pre-teen" when she was five and hasn't let up since. Here's a particularly illustrative example of what a tired Caroline can be like:

1. We're going to get a birthday present for a party Jack is about to attend. Happy.

2. I don't understand the BFF charm bracelet she wants to get Maddie; it sounds to me like she's trying to score a bracelet for herself. I say no. Mad.

3. We drop Jack off at the birthday party. Happy.

4. She finds shorts she likes at Gap. Still happy.

Wait for it...

Wait for it....

5. They don't have them in her size. Mad.

6. I buy things for Jack. Ooooooh, really mad.

7. I tell her she's driving me crazy. Shocked and mad.

(Really? You had no idea you're being a pain in the butt?)

8. I buy her ice cream. Happy.

9. She has to wait five minutes for Jack's party to end. Bored.

10. We're going to the airport to pick up Daddy. Elated. Like the past five days have been sheer torture.

And Mommy? I bought two pairs of pants and a pair of shoes, and soon it will be cocktail hour, and then I will be happy, happy, happy.

(Lest you attempt to stage an intervention or two, no, she's not bipolar, and no, I'm not an alcoholic. But she is moody. And I do like wine. And maybe those two things are occasionally related.)

10 days!

I started this blog with teeny tiny baby steps -- one post a year ago that I didn't tell anyone I wrote. Then a post ten days ago that I let my husband read. Then another then another then another then I let two friends read it. Now it's been ten days, and I still won't tell many people about it, but I don't cringe when someone tells me they posted it on their Facebook page (okay, I'm being grandiose, but it has happened, twice.)

I don't want to be a giant goofball, though it comes naturally to me, but I want to tell you that every time I hit "publish post" I feel like I'm walking naked through the grocery store.

(Yeah, that's not such a good visual with all that food. How about naked through the elementary school? Nope, just creepy. How about just naked anywhere in public? That's it. There you go.)

It's very, very hard to write something I think is funny or interesting and then put it out there, open to ridicule and criticism. It's definitely new territory for me, and it's going out on a limb. But it's something that is, for some reason, fulfilling me, and making me really happy.

So. To every one of my friends and family members who have encouraged me to write, or who have read any of these posts and laughed, or checked back the next day for another one, or told their friends to read, or told me you liked it, thank you very, very much. I appreciate it every single time. The very lost feeling I've had since Jack went to kindergarten is ebbing day by day. This blog could end tomorrow or I could be some toothless old lady slamming the keys on an ancient computer to get my dying thoughts out there (and seriously, at that point, you can really stop reading) -- I have no clue what will happen. My friend Chrissy, when I called her in a moment of embarrassed panic, gave me the marching orders I will continue to follow: "Wake up. Will writing be fun? Then write. Go to bed. Repeat."

Anyway, thanks. It's important to me that I say that.

Sappy commercial over.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Goodbye, all ye who used to love me in person

I am going to lose all my friends, and my husband. All because of this blog that I'm still not sure I'm okay with anyone reading. Why?

Well, Whit (aforementioned husband) is currently five states away (okay, three, but they're big states) playing golf, drinking beer and watching basketball with twenty of his old fraternity brothers. It sounds wild, but it's such a ridiculously middle-aged trip: they have steak dinners and wine and caddies. No Animal House antics there. As far as I know.

I, on the other hand, am home with the kids. And the pork-chop devouring dog. And the homework, and the art fair, and the fart jokes, and the activities, and, of course, my dad ("How's pot roast for dinner?" "Eggs." "What?" "Just a dozen." Insert quick phone call to my sister to see if she thinks my dad is officially nuts or just screwing with me for fun). So when, during the headache phase of Thursday, Whit texted me to say, "Hi, sweetie, how was your day? How are the kids?" I very grumpily texted back, "Read my blog."

I know this man very, very well. And I know that he took a deep breath (and a biiiiiig sip of beer) before responding, more patiently than he wanted, "Well, since I'm not in front of a computer, maybe you could just tell me." I made him wait a few hours. Somehow I don't think he was tortured by the wait; rather, I think he was saying to himself, "Wow. What a bitch." Then, "Another round, anyone?"

Next a very close friend asked me if anything cute happened with the kids on St. Patrick's Day. I happen to love writing these blog entries -- come on, why else would I make myself such an easy target? -- but I really do put a lot of thought into what I write (by which I mean I actually reread it once before posting). I n.e.v.e.r. put an ounce of thought into what I say (yeah, that doesn't always work out so well for me). So after I've carefully described some event in my life, I don't really want to retell it. I write better than I speak, so it's just more interesting if you read it. Cut to the point, this friend was quite irritated that she had to read the blog to hear the story about Caroline's note to the leprechaun. And it made me realize I'm in trouble. I'm a little obsessed.

So I'm slightly worried that I am going to become one of those really weird people who doesn't sleep and sits in front of a computer all night and doesn't have any friends and howls at her own oddly disjointed mental jokes. Seriously. I'm going to go from being a nice, normal suburban mother having a mild to moderate midlife crisis to a nutcase who can't communicate unless it's via blog. I'll be some virtual freak job locked in my (currently tastefully decorated, but just give it time) office with no human contact.

(No. I am never accused of hyperbole.)

(Or sarcasm.)

(Or excessive use of parentheses.)

I guess I'll save that drama for my "3/4 of the way through it" crisis. I don't have time for it now, and that buys me a good twenty years. In the meantime, if you've got to talk to me and you can't get through, start a blog. I'll probably answer you immediately.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hot yoga sucks. Mostly.

For the benefit of my Iranian friend (who is probably really a computerized search engine), I will tell you that I am not fat. I will, with equal honesty, tell you that I am not skinny. All the willowy, tall genes went to my 5'9" sister. All the "athletic" genes went to 5'3" (if I stand up tall) me. It's as if the second X chromosome and the Y chromosome were arguing about which one of them got to pair up with the initial X chromosome and they just gave up and said, "Okay, we'll go halvsies." I really do tend to build muscle. It's hard to stand next to my sister and not feel like I totally illustrate the word "fireplug."

That's the first point. The second point is that chapter IV, subsection III of my midlife crisis involves the fact that I fully expect my metabolism to come to a loud, screeching halt at any single second now that I have passed my 40th birthday.

So, put the points together, and you'll understand that I feel the immediate need to get to nothing but skin and bones now to give myself a little ten-pound wiggle room when my metabolism goes postal on me. And you'll also understand that I had to try something completely new to wrest those ten pounds away from my truck-driver thighs.

Hence the reason I was in a 104 degree room, with 100 percent humidity, trying desperately to balance on the tippy toes of one foot while wrapping the other foot around the other leg and "gently tucking" my toes behind my calf and THEN bringing my hands up into a prayer position. Seriously? That doesn't even look normal when yoga teachers do it. This very Zen teacher was spouting crap like, "Breathe in happiness and sunshine and breathe out worry and stress." And meanwhile, all I could think of whether I was breathing in OR out was, "We're going to get a parking ticket. We're going to get a parking ticket."

The worst thing I did was tell her my name. I should have given her an alias so it wasn't quite so humiliating when she would say, "Oh, Julie, let me correct that pose." "No, Julie, you need to bend backwards enough that you can SEE the wall behind you." Yeah? Well, I have a herniated disc. And a bad knee. And a total aversion to being told to contort myself into a pretzel when the teller is so calm and rational, like she's asking me to pick up some milk for her at the store.

Probably the low point came when she said, "Do not wipe the sweat from your face. As you are inverted, allow the sweat to drip back into your nose and give yourself a sinus rinse." Ewwww. That's disgusting. I'd hire a maid service to come clean my sinuses before I want my own sweat doing the job. And, not to be defensive, but I never thought I had particularly dirty sinuses anyway.

But, darn it, I'll go back.


I weighed five pounds less after the class than before the class. And yes, I know, it was water weight, because I sweated my ass off for 90 minutes, and I know it came back on when I hydrated the way I was supposed to. But I did, very quickly, run and try on my skinny jeans, and they felt wonderful. So at the end of the day, I'm as shallow as the shallowest among us...I'll subject myself to the discomfort, the wacko imagery, the clean sinuses and the post-class splitting headache just to able to prance around in my room for ten minutes wearing a really, really small size.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

5:44 pm Thursday

Pounding, pulsing, throbbing headache.

Caroline is screaming at me because I can't think of one more f*ing adjective with an -iew spelling pattern.

Jack is crying because I didn't spend three hours making "pot of gold" cupcakes and then surprising him at lunch.

The (supposedly geriatric) dog just jumped up and ate the ENTIRE MEGAPACK OF PORK CHOPS I PLANNED TO MAKE FOR DINNER. That's 16 pork chops. Please don't ask me why I bought the pack of 16. I can't pass up a bargain, okay?

Do all caps denote the fact that I am yelling? Because I am. Calgon, take me away. Jose Cuervo, take me away. Someone just get me out of here....

Little Green Men, take II

So last night, at 11:00, I crept upstairs to dump coins and confetti in Caroline's shoes. I tiptoed into her room but was stopped short by a piece of heavily-worded paper propped up against the shoes. I grabbed a flashlight and read it:

"Dear Leprechaun,

Thank you so much for always making St. Patrick's Day so much fun for me. I am leaving you a piece of chocolate since you always leave me something. (Damnit, Caroline, no candy in your room!! I don't want mice or bugs!!) I know how busy you are, but I know that you're magic and can do anything, so I have one favor to ask.

Please, please, please will you paint my toenails green while I sleep? I'll leave my feet out from under the covers for you.




I have that unfortunate purple. I have electric blue. I have glitter and every shade of pink and red known to Elizabeth Arden. But nooooooo, I don't have green nailpolish. I don't even have yellow to mix with the blue. My husband is out of town. I can't run to the store, which, pathetically, I would have done if it was an option. Can I use marker? Eyeliner? White-out mixed with food coloring?

Ahhhh, who's the sucker now?

What did I do? Go to sleep, like a normal, tired mother who thinks it's ridiculous that her almost-nine-year-old still believes in leprechauns? No. I frantically ran downstairs, found a leprechaun-y font on the computer, printed out individual letters, glued them on pieces of green paper and left a big, messy word riddle for her to figure out. At midnight I was blowing on the glue to dry it until I realized I was hyperventilating and probably slipping into some sort of an inhaled-glue coma.

She was thrilled and completely confident in the existence of magic. I was pooped. Being a leprechaun is simply exhausting.

Little Green Men

We’re ridiculously over the top when it comes to holidays. Literally, the lengths to which we will go to amuse our children is almost embarrassing. The Easter Bunny makes each child follow a labyrinth of colored yarn, starting at the top of the stairs, to find his or her basket. These are sometimes hidden in the car or the neighbor’s yard. The kids crawl under coffee tables, jump over furniture and lift the toilet seat lid to follow the string. They’re exhausted when they get to the end.

[Now that I think of it, how can it be they’re not terrified thinking of a giant bunny lurking in the hall at midnight outside their bedrooms? These are the kids who were scared of costumed characters until age six (Caroline; Disney’s always been out of the question) and of 3D movies until age five (Jack, because he freaked out when things flew at him)?]

At Christmas, Santa eats the cookies, drinks the milk, feeds the carrots to Rudolph, writes the kids a thank-you note and even leaves a trail of magical glitter that has fallen off his sled.

The tooth fairy leaves only brand new, shiny gold dollars for lost teeth. The kids have never seen them anywhere else, so naturally, they believe they’re minted just for their little teeth and nothing else.

So it won’t surprise you, a bit, that leprechauns visit on St. Patrick’s Day. In the past, the leprechauns have gone nuts…milk, toilet water and bath water have suddenly turned green. I think we had some well-intentioned but very misguided green mashed potatoes one year. There’s pesky confetti in backpacks and chocolate coins and necklaces left in the kids’ shoes. Secretly, given their advancing ages, I thought the gig was kind of up this year, and they had figured out the true identity of the leprechaun.

Until we were walking home from school yesterday, and the kids were in front of me. This was the conversation I overheard:

Caroline: Jack, don’t forget to leave your shoes by the door tonight. The leprechauns come since tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day.

Jack: Oh, yeah. That’s right. (Long pause.) Caroline, do you believe in leprechauns?

Caroline: Mommy says they stop coming when you’re older or when you decide not to believe in them. So yes, I believe in them, and they keep coming. Anyway, Mommy hates confetti. She’d never throw it all over the house just so she’d have to clean it up. That would be dumb.

Dumb. Okay, please. With all due respect to my adorable children, is it really me we should be calling names? Because, let’s face it, Caroline, little green men don’t really enter our well-secured home to sprinkle confetti in your smelly sneakers. And frankly, Jack, you scream if you see a fly in the house. Are you really okay with this whole idea?

And it's even a little worrisome. I mean, Caroline is in third grade. If she runs into school muttering about little green men taking an interest in her shoes, they're going to lock her up in the looney bin.

All right. Fine. I've still got a few leprechaun tricks up my sleeve. But I have stopped thinking my gullible little kids are sweetly innocent and naively accept all forms of magic without reservation. Now I have a sneaking suspicion maybe they're actually a bit dim.

Note to self: password protect the blog. Dim or not, they're happy, and I don't want to be the one to blow it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Questionable parenting pays off

Confession: I am a strict rule follower (except I do believe in occasionally rolling through stop signs, which my husband, children AND senile father have pointed out. Repeatedly. Annoyingly. They get there safely, right? So zip it). Anyway, when Caroline, who’s basically strung out on the academic, social and athletic pressures of third grade (which seems to be the new high school), told me she wanted a day off today, I instantly thought, “No. No way. That’s not right.”

Okay, then I totally admit to thinking, “I need to try another hot yoga class. I need to pay bills. I need to do some writing for a website (a mini job, yippee). I need to pull all my 2010 utility bills for the tax guy. I NEED MY SIX HOURS WITH MY KIDS IN SCHOOL!” But mainly, it felt so wrong to just let her stay home for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

But then I looked at her. I realized she wasn’t asking to take a day off to sit in her room and sulk, or play video games by herself, or have a playdate with some other big faker friend. No, she wanted to spend the day with me. And because I am a sap and a sucker and probably the most irresponsible mother on the planet, I said, “Sure. Stay home.”

I got nothing done. Nada. Breakfast dishes are still in the sink. Dog hasn’t been walked. Beds haven’t been made. Not one damn bill got paid, not one damn penny got earned, not one damn chore got done. I was completely and totally unproductive. Again, not my favorite feeling.

But…we ate gourmet and stupidly expensive cupcakes before lunch. We surprised Maddie (broken collarbone buddy) in her school cafeteria with a huge happy birthday balloon. We went to a pottery place and labored over a mosaic peace sign for Caroline’s room. We ate bagel sandwiches and more cupcakes and walked around downtown and talked about movies, friends, homework, teachers and birthday plans. We laughed about “pee balloons”” (note to self: don’t let Jack see Daddy Daycare, the movie Caroline saw at her slumber party, or we will surely all be targeted with urine missiles. He’d SO want to try that) and funny, quirky things about my dad. We talked about spring and why you can’t get cashmere sweaters dirty. We just connected. It was an amazing day.

Even when one mom said, in a rather nasty tone, “Please don’t let THIS get around or I’ll be stuck doing the same damn thing” or another mother said, “You are crazy. She’ll never understand that school is serious” or even the one who said, “How do you possibly have time to spend the day so frivolously?”, I wouldn’t take a minute of it back.

I am not one to stop and smell the roses – I am a rusher, not a relaxer, and I am always busy, busy, busy – but you can’t rush through a mosaic, and you can’t be busy when your mouth is full of a decadent red velvet cupcake, and you can’t focus on dishes when you’re about to wet your own pants laughing about pee balloons.

So you know what? Tonight, when I go to bed, I actually think I will believe I had one of the most productive days I’ve had in ages. Because I had one little girl in the center of my world for six uninterrupted hours, and I think we’re both a million times happier for it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Blogus Ignoramus

Okay, so here's the funny thing...I don't really know what a blog is. Seriously. I don't know why they exist or who reads them (unless you're one of the few people I have begged to read this blog). All I know is that my friend Marie watched Julie & Julia about a year ago and said to me, "That's what you need to do! Start a blog!" So I did. And the rest is obviously posted here. One of the kindergarten mom friends, who is very soft spoken and kind (and an accomplished writer), mentioned that some other blog could link to my blog. I stared at her blankly. She raised her eyebrows and said, sweetly but really to the point, "You know, maybe you should read a few blogs before writing one."

But I can't read them now, because subconsciously (or consciously, if I really couldn't think of anything to write), I'd copy them.

But...I feel sorry for anyone who has to read all my random thoughts. In fact, the funniest thing is that I have waxed eloquently about how boringly belly-button-contemplating Facebook is, yet (as Marie pointed out with great humor), clearly those rules are suspended when I choose to devote an entire web site to just my thoughts! Hey, the way I see it, you don't have to read what I write. Actually, as I think I've pointed out, nobody is reading it. Except my sister, who promised to be my follower only after being bribed with the lobster paella dinner and an entire bottle of chardonnay. I'm not proud. I'll take it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Weird Worries

I worry about weird things. For example, Caroline was coughing last night. So I gave her some cough medicine. She stopped coughing. I worried she was dead. I laid awake thinking, “Did I give her too much? Wrong medicine? Expired medicine? Is she having a reaction?” Yes, dummy, she’s not coughing any more; that’s the reaction. I had to keep checking to be sure she was breathing. Now I’m tired, so I’m worried I’ll be too tired to cook my dad the birthday dinner he requested (lobster paella – give me a break – couldn’t it be something easier? And cheaper?).

I worry that I will never make a career out of writing. This blog isn’t off to an auspicious start: no one is reading it. Yes, one could argue that it’s a secret blog, and I haven’t told anyone about it. But, I would reply, I have told four people about it, and they’re not even reading it. Okay, someone in Iran read it, but I can’t really count that. I even asked my husband to be my first follower and he deadpanned, “No way. I’m a leader.” Laugh all you want; there’s still a big fat zero over there. I worry that I’m going to end up a barista at Starbucks talking about how I could have made it big if only the stars had aligned.

I worry about melanoma and undiagnosed heart problems and that someday my boobs will actually touch my knees without me bending over. I worry about being a bad parent OR a good parent and having my kids leave the nest without a backwards glance. I worry about getting really fat. I worry about being homeless (this is usually connected to my worry about fire) and I worry about osteoporosis. I worry about the fact that my neighbors walk unnaturally slowly to school and I worry about all the tardy slips they’re probably amassing. I worry about natural disasters, cell phone radiation, urban violence, kids growing up too fast and the moral and ethical decline of our society. I worry that my house will never actually look cute because by the time I finish decorating it everything will be out of style. I worry about my kids and my husband and my in-laws and my siblings. I worry that I am going to be really, really, really, really sad when my dog dies and that I’m not going to be able to get over it. Then I worry I’m incredibly self-absorbed to sit down and write about all these worries.

But, on the bright side, I guess it’s the only way my new Iranian friend is ever going to get to know the real me.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Day After

She didn't sleep. Wait; I misspoke. She slept three hours. Not in a row.

I told her we had to go to Sunday school and she burst into tears. I told her we had to go get eggs at the store and she burst into tears. I told her we had to go to a cookout for my dad's birthday (which is tomorrow) and she burst into tears.

Have I mentioned that I hate sleepovers?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sleepover hell

Reasons I have learned to hate, hate, hate sleepovers, slumber parties, etc. for my almost nine-year-old daughter, Caroline:

1. Lice. Okay, so we've never had to deal with it, but the thought of lice or ticks or anything that latches on and sucks your blood freaks me out.

2. She fell out of a friend's bed once and fractured her collarbone. This occurred during a night when Jack went on the sleepover, too. My husband and I celebrated this rare night off in style...we went out to a hot new restaurant with some friends (friends without kids, so we were buckled up for a late night and a long ride) and then went to a wine bar -- the definition of a rowdy night out those days. At 1:00 am I was marveling at how fun I was. Like the old days! Makeup, hair, expensive HEELS! No, I wasn't dancing on the bar like in my college days, but I wasn't sound asleep on the bar, either. Went home, fell asleep happy we didn't have to wake up early with the kids. Until the 5 am call from my friend, Marie, saying I needed to take Caroline to the ER....I wasn't terribly worried about Caroline; I was more concerned I'd be profiled on Dateline NBC for getting a DUI while picking up my kids from a sleepover.

3. She tends to not sleep, at all, not a wink, not a blink, at someone else's house. If you have a little girl, particularly a little girl given to dramatic mood swings, you can imagine the nightmare of living a few days with a kid who has been awake all night. By the time she's back to her sweet self, I generally feel like I've been run over by a truck.

4. She peed all over her sleeping bag during a first-grade slumber party. Enough said.

So tonight, she has the first of many March slumber parties (everyone, myself included, clearly got amorous in June 2001). To further explain my angst, I'll give you one note about tonight's hostess...the last time Caroline spent the night there, my (normally excessively polite) daughter told the mother she was bossy when she told Caroline to go to bed at midnight. The mother did not think it was funny.

So anyway, Caroline's sleepover instructions now look like this:

Sleep. Seriously. REM sleep.
Don't break any bones.
Don't wet the bed.
Don't make any remotely smart-ass comments to anyone.
Be happy tomorrow. Be nice to me. Please.

I make it so unpleasant and rule-oriented I am surprised she goes, but she goes, with incredible enthusiasm.

I think I need to go to bed to rest up for tomorrow's battle.

I'm a lemming, I tell you.

It is totally shameful that I just flipped through a magazine that said, "Short dark nails are in!" I immediately grabbed (my daughter's) dark purple nailpolish (from the year she was a witch for Halloween, if that gives you a color visual) and painted my (short) nails dark. My husband looked over and said, "Hmmm. Ugly. Looks like dried blood." "Yup, ugly," I responded, "but in."

How needy am I?! Do I think someone will overlook my "What Not to Wear" old running shoes and dark roots to say, "But her nails look great, so clearly she's making some statement with the rest of it"?

Needy. Are we all programmed to be needy lemmings? Nah, it's just me.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Any port in a storm, I guess...

This is how I know I am in trouble: this morning, I was dressed for a class I take at the gym (Les Mills Body Pump). I've been doing it for a year off and on, and since it's a barbell/weight class, I have found myself getting stronger. Of course, no one notices, and I pride myself on the fact that I am totally content just feeling better about myself without any external adulation. Until this morning.

Jack, my six year old, said conversationally, "Mommy, you have big muscles."

Time stood still. Happiness and sunshine welled up deep inside me. I think a blue jay actually chirped in my ear. Every painful clean and press (if you don't know what that is, consider yourself lucky. Flabby, perhaps, but lucky) was suddenly worth it! I had big muscles! I nearly skipped out of the kitchen.

Then I got upstairs and realized I was pathetic. Come on, Julie. The same six year old is fascinated by his weiner for hours. It doesn't take much to please him. Is it that necessary to be complimented? Does it matter that much? Have I traded all the paychecks and bonuses and perks of a real job (courtside seats, baby) for a kid who's probably really thinking, "Crap, she looks like a man"?

Yeah, I have. And yeah, I added a little weight to my barbell during the class. And decided that perhaps I am pathetic, and perhaps compliments mean just a touch more than they should, but so what. I'm 40. I'll take what I can get.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Midlife crisis, in process forward one year. Still hate that I turned 40 (and refuse to acknowledge I now must turn 41). Still sad the only child who is nice to me goes to kindergarten each day. Still want a job (and by that I mean I want to sit at home and write for six hours while the kids are in school and get paid for it). And...big change last elderly father orchestrated an incredibly thorough effort to excavate most of my yard, pour steps, gut and redo my basement, sell his house in Palm Beach, send all his possessions to an auction house in New York, hop on the auto train and MOVE INTO MY BASEMENT. Have I mentioned I live in a little Cape Cod? Yup, so now I am not only depressed that I sit at home all day and try to find intellectual satisfaction in Costco runs and piles of laundry, but I am also reduced to screaming into my dad's deaf ears ("Do you need anything at the store?" "What?" "The store. Need anything at the store?" "No, I'm fine, I don't need anything more.") and arguing with him over whether or not the cleaning lady actually stole his toilet brush. Seriously, what is she going to do, put it on ebay?

I have become friends with two fantastic fellow kindergarten moms, and they reminded me that I once wanted to blog, so I'll try it again. Frankly, I find the idea abhorrent, the same way I find Facebook abhorrent -- who the hell cares what I think or what I do? How incredibly narcissistic is it that I would assume anyone cares? But, then I remember how much I love to walk my dog when it's just getting dark and no one has closed their blinds but they have all their lights's just a peek into someone else's life. It's interesting like a car crash. You peek, look away, peek, thank God it's not your life then move on. So, we'll see what happens. And yes, I do have a Facebook account. And I like it.